Well these past 2 months have certainly been eventful.
What began as a little 3 week holiday to visit family and friends has become me moving back to my old stomping grounds. That’s right folks, I have left the good old USA and returned to my little island home of Guernsey.
Why? You ask. To be honest there is no single reason for it, rather it was a decision made after considering a lot of factors. Not least of which was the health of family members.
I have to admit that it is a little odd being back in my childhood room as so many years. But then at the same time I have found that this move has invigorated my passion for writing. This is, after all, where it all began those many years ago. I can still remember being sixteen and making my first tentative steps into this tumultuous world we call writing. Sitting for hours at my old electric typewriter during the school holidays as I labored over The Lighthouse.
Regular viewers will have heard me mention this story before. And you may also remember how the original manuscript had been found recently. Well I’ve had a chance to look over it and although my style has certainly changed and improved over the years, there is still a lot of potential in the basic concepts. So I’m happy to announce for all those who were there in the beginning, that the story is going to be re-written. Hopefully it will be even more spine chilling.
By the way, this is the particular lighthouse that gave me the original idea.
That’s the Hanois lighthouse off the south coast of Guernsey.
So here’s to the next chapter in the grand novel we call life. Turn the page and expect the unexpected.
Today I have something a bit different from the norm; A book review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Ann Shaffer and Annie Narrows. Why, I hear you shout, is he doing a book review? the answer to which is simple. I was born and raised on the little island of Guernsey where this book is set. Before this novel came along, people here in the US would ask which part of England I was from when they heard my accent. In the past when I said “Guernsey” I would get a blank stare and have to explain where it was (yeah, that was fun for about the first four weeks). Now when I mention the island I get asked if I have read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and how accurate is it.
After being asked for the umpteenth (anyone know where the umpteen key is?) time I decided it would probably be a good idea to actually read the thing. Here are my thoughts.
Disclaimer: I have tried to keep out any spoilers but there may be a few things in the following that could spoil the surprise.
The story begins in January of 1946, one year after the liberation of Guernsey from the occupying Nazi forces. Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This letter is to be the beginning of a remarkable tale which finds Juliet being drawn to the little island and it’s quirky inhabitants.
One of the interesting and unique things about this book is the style in which is is written. The whole story is told through letters and correspondence between Juliet and the other main protagonists. This makes for an interesting format which at certain times can get a little confusing. The book however is very easy reading and draws the reader in. I have heard some fellow Guerns complain about the characters not be an accurate representation. I would argue that they are only saying that because at certain points it comes a little too close to the truth. I can say from having been born and raised on guernsey that I have met every single one of those people. We’ve all known an Isola Pribby at some point in our lives (she was my favorite character).
Too answer the question I always get asked about accuracy I will say this. The book is not a historical document and there has been a good amount of artistic license used. It is, after all, a fictional work. Having said that I can say that the authors have painted a wonderful picture of Guernsey post war. A lot of the island may have changed since then but you can still find some of the pristine untouched parts. I am also man enough to admit that at one point I was reduced to a blubbering mess. My wife kept asking which character had been killed off. My tears were not for a person but rather an image,which even while I write this gives me a lump in my throat. It was Juliet’s approach to St Peter Port harbour at sunset that had made my stiff British upper lip quiver like a schoolgirl. That for me is where The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has it’s true appeal.
Is the book an accurate depiction of life after Nazi occupation? To be honest that would be stretching it a bit. Is Guernsey really as beautiful as the book makes out? Without a doubt!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a great weekend read for just about anyone so give it a go. You may even find yourself wanting to take a trip in Juliet’s footsteps.